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Nebraska Judge grants protection to women accusing Chadron State College appointee of sexual assault

A "Chadron State College" sign is in the foreground of a campus view.
Elizabeth Rembert
Nebraska Public Media News
Nebraska's governor has revoked Caleb Tegtmeier's appointment to represent Chadron State College, a northwest Nebraska school, on the state's College's Board of Trustees. Judge Russell Harford ruled that Tegtmeier must stay away from two of the women accusing him of sexual assault, and Tegtmeier has withdrawn from CSC and left the area.

Former Chadron State student Caleb Tegtmeier had been on track to represent the northwest Nebraska school on the state college board. But he lost his appointment after multiple women accused him of sexual assault. In June, a judge ruled Tegtmeier must stay away from two of the women.

A judge granted protection orders requested by two women who accused a former Chadron State College student and former political appointee of Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts of sexual assault.

Ricketts had chosen Caleb Tegtmeier to represent Chadron State on the Nebraska State College Board of Trustees in January.

Now the governor has revoked the appointment and Tegtmeier has withdrawn from the school and moved out of the area, according to Chadron State and Tegtmeier's lawyer.

In February, two female Chadron State students accused Tegtmeier of unwanted sexual touching in a college dormitory and requested protection from Dawes County Judge Russell Harford.

In a court document describing evidence for an April hearing, the women’s lawyer said three other female students allege they also had similar experiences with Tegtmeier.

Harford wrote: “It is clear to the Court that the Respondent [Tegtmeier] prays [sic] on vulnerable female students and takes advantage of them sexually under the guise of being there to help and support them,” in one decision to grant protection. No criminal charges have been filed.

Tegtmeier's attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The protection orders mean Tegtmeier cannot contact the women.

Tegtmeier is challenging the basis for the protection orders and is asking the judge to vacate the orders. In a hearing on June 27, regarding one of the bans on contact, Rebecca Chasek, Tegtmeier’s lawyer, argued he did not act without the woman’s consent and halted sexual contact once she asked him to stop.

“It is clear to the Court that the Respondent [Tegtmeier] prays [sic] on vulnerable female students and takes advantage of them sexually under the guise of being there to help and support them.”
Nebraska Dawes County Judge Russell Harford

Danielle Larson, the attorney representing the two women accusing Tegtmeier, said her client had “repeatedly set boundaries with Caleb, and he repeatedly pushed against those physical boundaries. She told him it was not OK and he’d push again.”

Harford rejected Tegtmeier’s characterization of consent when he decided to overrule the motion.

“The Court does not agree with the assertion by Respondent [Tegtmeier] that an aggressor can initiate sexual contact with another and until the recipient of that contact says ‘stop’ that the initial contact was consensual,” the judge wrote.

Excerpt from a court document.
Dawes County Court documents
Dawes County Judge Russell Harford disagreed with the characterization of consent in Tegtmeier's argument that he did not act without the woman’s consent and halted sexual contact once the women asked him to stop.

Ricketts put Tegtmeier’s nomination to the state college board on hold after Chadron State’s school newspaper wrote about the accusations made in court. The governor has now revoked the appointment. A spokesperson said Ricketts wasn’t aware of the allegations against Tegtmeier when he made his pick.

But before reaching the governor’s desk, Tegtmeier’s application to represent Chadron State passed through college President Randy Rhine and NSCS Chancellor Paul Turman.

“Working as a Student Trustee would allow me to voice the views and opinions of the students of Chadron State. I want to give the Board of Trustees an honest view of the College, as whether positive or negative, they deserve honesty and hard work from a Student Trustee,” the then-sophomore wrote in his application to become the board’s primary liaison with Chadron State students.

A paragraph excerpt from an essay.
Document obtained through public records request with Nebraska's governor's office
Tegtmeier wrote in his essay that his ambition to become Chadron State College's student trustee came from a drive to serve and help students. (Screenshot from application materials obtained through public records request)

Nebraska Public Media News obtained Tegtmeier’s application through a records request with the governor’s office.

Tegtmeier is the son of Elizabeth Tegtmeier, who is running to represent most of western Nebraska on the state’s board of education.

"While my son disagreed with the allegations and the process at Chadron State, it's better for everyone if he moves on so that all of the students can get the best possible education," Elizabeth Tegtmeier said in an emailed statement. "My commitment to serving Nebraska's schools, students, and teachers on the Nebraska State Board of Education has not wavered and remains strong."

A spokesperson for the college system and Chadron State said the two organizations would find a way for the northwest Nebraska school to be represented on the board of trustees.

In a statement, the spokesperson declined to comment on specifics, citing regulations that protect student privacy, but said "The Board of Trustees for the Nebraska State Colleges and Chadron State College take all reports of sexual harassment and the safety and well-being of our students seriously."

Paul Turman, Chancellor of the Nebraska State College System, is a member of the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications Commission which holds the license for some Nebraska Public Media transmitters. Chadron State College is a supporter of Nebraska Public Media.

This story comes is a collaboration with the Midwest Newsroom, an investigative journalism partnership including IPRKCUR 89.3Nebraska Public Media NewsSt. Louis Public Radio and NPR. For more in-depth news from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, we invite you to follow us on Twitter.

Elizabeth Rembert reports on agriculture out of Nebraska for Harvest Public Media.
Bill Kelly oversees production of Nebraska Public Media's news documentaries and reports for radio.